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Eternal Reward or Punishment

Wiseone

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I was having a discussion with a friend today about the nature of eternal reward or punishment from God. Now we are both Catholic so the discussion was centered in that context but of course feel free to add any thoughts to eternal reward/punishment outside a Catholic/Christian mindset of judgment, God, etc...

So my argument was that it makes more sense to me, and that I would prefer, a situation where eternal punishment/reward doesn't exist at all in the sense that one can change their relationship/status with God through free-will even after death. So any example would be if one looked at an individual who was a great sinner, again in the Catholic/Christian mindset in my debate with my friend, would naturally be sent to hell. Could they not after death, assuming their mind was still wholly intact even though their body was not, realize their sins, seek forgiveness and redemption and be granted it as an individual who was still alive could be granted redemption, or would they be forever stuck in hell regardless of how pure their soul, ie mind, may become after death. Likewise could an individual who was very pious in life still be tempted and perhaps fall from God's gracious after being granted access to heaven?

Personally I would like to believe that God would always be willing to forgive sins, regardless of if the person were alive or dead so long as whatever requirements one may believe God has for forgiveness are met. This would be be because I assume and again would like freewill to be preserved in the afterlife as it is on Earth, however if someone has the same freewill in death as they did in life than naturally they could also reverse from God and fall away from him.

My friend argued that in Heaven one would be so consumed by the love of God that there would be no way one could turn away, and likewise in Hell one would be so consumed by hate that there would be no way one could turn away. However that would mean a fundamental change in the nature of a person's free-will in that it is for all practical purposes removed as there is no real-choice regarding this matter. And it would mean a change in the nature of temptation, as one rarely turns away from God directly but rather a fall from God is normally, in my opinion, done through a series of other actions and temptations one can rationalize as not being sinful but gradually wear away at one's relationship with God.

In my opinion the love one must for God to be accepted in Heaven is valuable in that is freely given, one makes a conscious choice rather than being "hooked" on it like a drug, an analogy my friend did not enjoy.

One can also look in Christian tradition at the story of Lucifer, who being an angel was present in Heaven and fully exposed to God's love still rejected it, in his case through Pride, so wouldn't that mean for humans in heaven the same situation could repeat itself?

I also argued that sin itself could be a means to God, that whatever sin one commits(because as Catholics we believe no one is without sin in some form), a far greater sin would not be to learn from it as use it as a foundation to strengthen one's faith. For example a murderer has committed a terrible sin but it would be a greater one in my opinion that when he conducts a self-examination of himself and realizes his actions were sinful does not seek to learn from them to better understand himself, the nature of human beings and the universe in general as it relates to his sin, and how it avoid committing that sin again.
So in other words he uses his experiences in life, sinful or otherwise, to better understand how he came to sin with the purpose of avoiding sin in general in the future. And by better understanding sin, why and how he and people in general sin, he has placed himself in a position where it is more difficult to sin again and thus his relationship with God is strengthen as he sins less.

I hope everyone understands what I'm trying to get at, its difficult to put into words in some places and the argument was in a Catholic mindset but I think its an interesting question regarding the place of freewill in whatever afterlife we may see.
 

rathi

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I would think that a static afterlife would be unjust. How can one be judged for eternity based on a finite amount of time? Even more the righteous deed or terrible crime has but a temporary effect upon the material world.
 

lizzie

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I need to preface my post to let you know I am not, nor have I ever been, Catholic, but was raised in a very religious Protestant atmosphere, and taught that eternal damnation or salvation were the only two choices. My beliefs have changed dramatically throughout my lifetime, and continue to do so now- I expect they will until the day I die.

So my argument was that it makes more sense to me, and that I would prefer, a situation where eternal punishment/reward doesn't exist at all in the sense that one can change their relationship/status with God through free-will even after death.
I no longer buy the eternal punishment system at all. When I was around 13 years old, I realized it made no sense whatsoever that if there was a God, and he loved his children, then he could not possibly condemn Buddhists, Muslims, or even Atheists, and love only Christians. That would be akin to me hating one of my children because he was ignorant, and loving the other who was educated. I cannot accept that. This question was the catalyst of my lifelong look at things religious and philosophical.

Could they not after death, assuming their mind was still wholly intact even though their body was not, realize their sins, seek forgiveness and redemption and be granted it as an individual who was still alive could be granted redemption, or would they be forever stuck in hell regardless of how pure their soul, ie mind, may become after death.
I suspect that if anything does indeed continue after death, it is more like some type of thought process which may have the ability to form a “ghost” of a body (not fully physical), but is not emotionally based as we are in human bodies. It seems to me that it would be more unbiased and broad in scope. I don’t believe that heaven and hell are physical places, but possibly states of mind.

Personally I would like to believe that God would always be willing to forgive sins, regardless of if the person were alive or dead so long as whatever requirements one may believe God has for forgiveness are met.
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I believe that if there is a soul, and/or afterlife, that we are always alive, and it’s a physical “shell” that dies. Iow, if someone is always alive, there’s no reason that things can’t happen, and we continue to change and evolve after we leave our physical bodies. Just a thought.:)



I also argued that sin itself could be a means to God, that whatever sin one commits(because as Catholics we believe no one is without sin in some form), a far greater sin would not be to learn from it as use it as a foundation to strengthen one's faith. ….
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I think that’s a good view to take as long as you can avoid the pitfalls of using rationalization in order to cultivate bad habits.:)

I hope everyone understands what I'm trying to get at, its difficult to put into words in some places and the argument was in a Catholic mindset but I think its an interesting question regarding the place of freewill in whatever afterlife we may see.
It is an interesting question, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t really add anything you will find useful, but I like discussions of this sort, because it shows a willingness to question and seek the truth that you can claim as your own.
 
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Orion

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From what we know, the universe isn't even eternal, and it's the oldest thing we know... so how could eternity really be eternal?

And more importantly, why would we spend an eternity somewhere for what happened in maybe 80 earth years? That seems silly.

It's far more likely that we either blink out of existence, or we simply change form into something else. Matter is never created or destroyed, it just changes. If our consciousness does survive separately from our bodies, then we will simply change and that's fine by me. And if there is nothingness, then it won't matter to me anyway.
 

Wiseone

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From what we know, the universe isn't even eternal, and it's the oldest thing we know... so how could eternity really be eternal?

And more importantly, why would we spend an eternity somewhere for what happened in maybe 80 earth years? That seems silly.

It's far more likely that we either blink out of existence, or we simply change form into something else. Matter is never created or destroyed, it just changes. If our consciousness does survive separately from our bodies, then we will simply change and that's fine by me. And if there is nothingness, then it won't matter to me anyway.
Well for the sake of arguement we're assuming that one's mind and/or soul continues to exist with some degree or all of one's orginal self conscious, but I suppose that's a perspective.
 

Orion

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Well for the sake of arguement we're assuming that one's mind and/or soul continues to exist with some degree or all of one's orginal self conscious, but I suppose that's a perspective.
I simply presented it as an option, not a provable fact. Gotta cover my bases!
 

Southern Belle

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I've always been taught that Hell is the absense of God (also the Lake of Fire) and it was origionally meant for Satan and his angels. But the Saints/Bride of Christ will have immortal, incorruptable bodies at the Rapture, so no, we won't be able to fall away again.

Matthew 25:41 (King James Version)
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

1 Corinthians 15 50-58(King James Version)
50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
 
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